Dewey on the threshold of aesthetics: the critique of the reflex arc concept

Gioia Laura Iannilli


This essay aims at providing a brief analysis of John Dewey’s 1896 essay The reflex arc concept in psychology by identifying in it “proto-aesthetic” elements that will be thematized in an explicitly aesthetic sense only, almost forty years later, in Art as experience. This latter can be indeed considered both as a hapax and an apex of a path in which Dewey progressively focuses on matters that can be deemed properly aesthetic and of which The reflex arc concept in psychology can be seen as one of the first steps. Our analysis will attempt at showing this connection by spanning the reflex arc idea, amended by Dewey in this essay, and that of “an” experience as a proper aesthetic experience through the fundamental concept of coordination.


Reflex arc; organic circuit; coordination; fully rounded out experience; “an” experience

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